Back with gadgets

So, back from the warm south (Helsinki), bearing a variety of items, most of them little objects from the science shop of Heureka — because though I am but a callow graduate student, I am firmly of the opinion that the official workroom of an academical ought to have at least some knickknacks, and for a mathematics-person Rubik’s cubes, Happy cubes, and the sort are just the right fit — they too tend to drive you nutty if you contemplate them for too long. (If my posts begin to get erratic, I have dug up that Hofstadter column from Metamagical Themas that told how to solve Rubik’s without a screwdriver.)

Being back from Helsinki, but not away from my holiday (until the end of month, and then back to the salt mines), I had a pleasant sauna-bath today, and being in that hot, moist room naked with my father — I believe things like this do not, except in saunas, happen very often — we bantered, and after a bit on the theory of jokes* turned to inventions, and especially this idea:

Suppose you had an invention that altered or switched senses.

We both being broadly speaking Savonian, of the Finnish tribe famous for its skewed humor, these were the three main inventions made.

  • Horse glasses. A visor much like that of Geordi La Forge in some incarnation of Star Trek, except that it has optics over the eyes which run outwards and end right over an ear, left for left and right for right, and looking to the sides. The predicted effect is a non-overlapping 360-degree field of vision, massive headaches, and eventually brain haemorrhaging.
  • Ear Color-o-matic. A little contraption for the blind, curled around your ear like a hearing aid. Has a little staff pointing outwards like the earpiece of a pair of glasses, with a camera in the end. The camera images a tight beam and registers the color in front of the wearer; the earpiece omits a sound corresponding to that color: louder for brighter, and correlating pitch for wavelength. (As “color” is a combination of intensity and wavelength, that would mean a blind man could hear colors. Not that “I can hear colors!” is something to say if you want to impress others with your acuity.)
  • Schrödinger’s Kitty Litter. A Geiger counter for the deaf — instead of ticking noises, emits a stench whose foulness correlates with the amount of radiation striking the machine.

Endnote: A device that turns sensations of touch to sound would be trivial: You takes a man and a stick, you attaches man to stick, and waves the stick in the desired direction. Loud sounds of discomfort indicate extremes of heat, sharpness and jaggedness.

* * *

* : A bit on the theory of jokes — most jokes are all about sudden shifts in perception. Witness this:

One evening a man walks into a bar, and sees an older gentleman sitting there, all prim and proper, but with a stick of celery behind an ear. Not wishing to appear rude, our man says nothing.

Comes the second evening, and he walks to the bar again, and the old man is there again, a stick of celery behind his ear but otherwise a perfect picture of quite wealthy respectability.

Comes the third evening, our man is there again — as is Mr. Celery, but there’s a tomato uneasily wedged behind his earlobe instead. Our man gathers his courage, approaches, asks: “Er, sorry, I don’t mean to intrude, but why do you have a tomato behind your ear?”

The old man gives the other a mournful glance, and sighs: “Because they were all out of celery.”

That’s an evil joke, as it sets up an expectation of some standard funny resolution, and then snubs the listener and leaves him without an answer.

How about another bar-joke?

Three mathematicians walk into a bar. You’d think the second would have ducked.

One Response to “Back with gadgets”

  1. Bob O'Hara Says:

    A bit on the theory of jokes — most jokes are all about sudden shifts in perception.

    It’s all to do with catastrophe theory, apparently.

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